ACC could have big first round in NFL draft

ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper has unveiled his third mock draft, and boy is there a heavy ACC presence.

Kiper now has six ACC players going in the first round -- one more than Todd McShay has in his latest mock draft.

Here is the rundown:

Most experts have had Werner, Cooper and Williams as first-round picks for months. But Watson and Rhodes are gaining steam. Hopkins is as well, though he did not make McShay's latest mock draft.

What stood out the most in looking at both mock drafts from McShay and Kiper is they now have Watson going ahead of Werner. Though Werner was the much more decorated player in college, he had a so-so combine. Watson has barely played any football and some (like myself) saw his decision to leave early as a risk. But his physical attributes (6-foot-5, 310 pounds), upside and position have made him very appealing as a first-round prospect.

As for Hopkins, I love the spot where Kiper has him going. I think he would be a perfect fit for the Texans.

Now, let's just say Kiper is right, and all six go in the first round. That would be the most first-round picks for the ACC since 2007, when six players also went in Round 1. Since 1997, the ACC has averaged 4.8 first-round picks a year.

Here is a look at past ACC first-round draft history, starting with 2005, the first year featuring 12 schools.

  • 2005 -- 5

  • 2006 -- 12

  • 2007 -- 6

  • 2008 -- 7

  • 2009 -- 5

  • 2010 -- 4

  • 2011 -- 3

  • 2012 -- 3

In addition to keeping tabs on how many first-round picks go from the ACC, keep an eye on the total number of first-round picks from the SEC. The 12 picks from the ACC in 2006 set an NFL record for a conference. Many expect the SEC to challenge that total this year. In that most recent McShay mock draft, he has 14 SEC players going in Round 1; Kiper has 13.